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Home Tradesman Insights Down With The Cowboys: The New Scheme That Could Help Rid The Industry Of Rogue Tradesmen

Down With The Cowboys: The New Scheme That Could Help Rid The Industry Of Rogue Tradesmen

They’ve been named and shamed on TV, outed on social media and slated on trade review sites, yet still, dodgy tradesmen are slipping through the cracks and into people’s homes. As if the damage they cause to those homes (and customer’s bank accounts) wasn’t bad enough, the blow these rogues have dealt time and time again to the trade industry is pretty severe.

According to one report, no less than 38% of homeowners said they didn’t trust a tradesman they hired for the first time. That’s to say nothing of the countless homeowners who did put their trust in what turned out to be a dodgy cowboy, only to have their lives – not to mention their properties – turned upside down.

Yet if one scheme gets the go-ahead, all of that could finally be a thing of the past.

new scheme end of cowboy tradesmen

Over two-thirds of tradesmen in favour of official licensing

In April 2018, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) conducted a survey of 487 small building firms. Of those, some 77% agreed that licensing all construction companies in the UK was a good idea. Meanwhile, 74% of those surveyed said that it was just what the industry needed to tackle the problem of cowboys and incompetent chancers blighting the industry.

Survey respondents agreed that mandatory licensing would lead to:

  • Better quality throughout the industry
  • Higher levels of professionalism
  • Better protection for customers
  • An improved image of the industry as a whole
  • The removal of rogue tradesmen

new scheme end of cowboy tradesmen

Finally, an alternative to opt-in schemes

Sure, the arrival of a new licensing scheme wouldn’t be the first time that tradesmen have had a chance to prove their credentials to potential customers. The government-endorsed TrustMark scheme has been around since 2005, with similar schemes existing before that. Such schemes may have worked to help the industry self-regulate, but only to a certain extent.

Yes, TrustMark accredited tradesmen must deliver the highest standards of workmanship. Yes, they must ensure customers receive the highest standards of service, and yes, those tradesmen must adhere to strict core criteria. But here’s the thing: signing up to TrustMark is entirely voluntary. As such, tradesmen can simply choose to ignore it and go about their business, even if that business largely involves ripping people off.

The FMB proposes changing that by introducing a compulsory license that construction professionals would be obligated to get before they could trade.

new scheme end of cowboy tradesmen

Bringing trade professions in line with other industries

Whilst some professionals like Gas Engineers have to be fully qualified in order to carry out their work, there’s no such qualification for your average builder, joiner or those working in many other trades. Technically then, anyone could pick up a bunch of tools, place an ad in the shop window (or on Facebook, obviously) and call themselves a tradesman.

You don’t need us to tell you what a disaster that can turn out to be.

The good news, however, is that if the FMB’s report ever gets the green light, that practice could soon be over too as the new scheme looks to give builders the same accredited status as those in other professions.

new scheme end of cowboy tradesmen

So, what happens now?

Sorry to get your hopes up, but at the minute nothing much has happened.

The Federation of Master Builders published a report “Licence to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction” in conjunction with research consultants Pye Tait. In it, they not only publish the results of their survey but detail exactly how a compulsory licensing scheme for building firms could be rolled out. This includes building on existing quality assurance frameworks such as TrustMark and taking appropriate steps to limit the disruptions and costs incurred by construction firms in order to comply.

The report recommends that the next step forward would be to develop what it calls an ‘industry-led Task Force or Working Group’ to develop a more detailed set of proposals and put them forward for the government’s consideration.

As always, your friends at Tradesman Saver will be the first to report on any updates to this story as soon as we receive them.  In the meantime, why not let us know what you think?

Is compulsory licensing for the UK construction industry a good idea? Will it really help weed out dodgy cowboys once and for all? Let us know in the comments below or get involved in the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.

Tradesman Saver also provides insurance for tradesmen covering a wide variety of professions. For further information, please see our who we cover page.

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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Yes, compulsory registration is essential. As you say, the vast majority of builders/roofers are not signed up to verified schemes like Trusted Traders or the various trades federations. They simply set up a flashy Facebook page, drive around in a professional-looking van, or are invited because they are seen to be working locally. When the consumer finds that they have been sold substandard services, overcharged or given worthless ‘guarantees’ then there is nobody to help them. Consumer Advice is ‘advice’, Trading Standards say they don’t intervene unless it’s a proven “crime”. The police will say its fraudulent but won’t pursue it if they don’t think it’s worth their time. Nobody is routinely checking or overseeing the industry. In the end all the responsibility is dumped on the consumer. “You should have gone to the Trusted Traders website” – Great if you had known it existed beforehand. “Find a lawyer and take them to court” – Not ideal if the builders have already taken all of your spare money. “But we warn you that you may lose this money too” – With the court system in disarray, many people will be scared of losing even more of their hard earned cash and simply give up.
It’s a rogue’s charter.

Reply to Mr Average

We ended up with 2 builder who did a awful job, filed a claim with the small claims court and won on both cases but can not get them to pay up. We are worried every time we need someone to do anything to our home

Reply to James Nichols
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